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Although the precise impact of media on society is notoriously difficult to ascertain, it cannot under any circumstance be written off as insubstantial. Whether positive or negative, the influence of the media on the society and our lives is very prominent. This notwithstanding, it is absolutely our call whether or not what we see or hear from the media has a positive or negative impact on our lives as individuals. Before delving into the relationship that exists between the media and politicians and the culminating effects of this relationship on the society, I would like to first of all look into what the media is.
To better understand the media and how it works in a particular country, we need to understand the political environment in which they operate. This becomes obvious when we consider the sweeping differences between media in a democratic society and those in autocratic nations. State control of the mass media is a routine element of autocratic systems. Here the fundamental restriction of the state largely dominates the potential agency of the media. In extreme cases, state-owned news agencies, broadcast media, and film studios act as propaganda arms of the state, promoting a narrow set of government-sanctioned images and messages.
Democratic societies, on the other hand, pride themselves on protecting freedom of the press and freedom of expression. Such societies are usually characterized by a more diverse mix of public and privately owned media outlets offering a variety of arts, news, information, and entertainment. The media in such societies are still subject to government regulation, but they are usually given much greater latitude to operate independently. It unfortunate that in most democratic nations, like Ghana, where illiteracy rate is high amongst the people freedom of expression is normally abused when it comes to matters of politics. The mass media constitute the backbone of democracy. The media are supplying the political information that voters base their decisions on. They identify problems in our society and serve as a medium for deliberation. They are also the watchdogs that we rely on for uncovering errors and wrongdoings by those who have power. It is therefore reasonable to require that the media perform to certain standards with respect to these functions, and our democratic society rests on the assumption that they do.
However, there is a growing concern that the mass media are not fulfilling these functions properly. Media critics claim that commercial mass media controlled by a few multinational conglomerates have become an antidemocratic force supporting the status quo. The news are more entertaining than informing, supplying mostly gossip, scandals, sex, and violence. Political news are more about personalities than about their ideologies. In the absence of serious debate, voters are left with paid political propaganda containing only meaningless slogans making them disinterested and cynical about politics. It is also claimed that the watchdogs are barking of the wrong things. The media hunt for scandals in the private lives of politicians and their families, but ignore much more serious consequences of their policies. They go after wounded politicians like sharks in a feeding frenzy. All too often, the media make us afraid of the wrong things. Minor dangers are hysterically blown out of proportions, while much more serious dangers in our society go largely unnoticed. The exaggerated fears often lead to unnecessary measures and legislation and “idiosyncratic justice”. If all these claims have any merit at all, then we have to drastically revise our view of the way our democracy works.
Besides the media chasing politicians and the political system for unnecessary issues to make fuss about, most politicians also take it upon themselves to make issues about their fellow politicians for the media to pick on and blow out of proportion. It is acclaimed that some media houses are affiliated to some political parties and thus will go out of way to defame members of their rival political parties.
In a political society like Ghana, matters of political interest are always met with sentimental attachments and judge is not always discerning. Most people are affiliated to various political parties for obscure reasons, ergo their logic in judgment on issues, especially concerning their rival parties are often questioned. Due to our upheld idiosyncrasies about matters of political interest, which is influenced greatly by ethnicity, gender, family tides and other factors rather than ideologies, our judgments on issues are mostly not discerning. Though not proven by science but by speculation, one won’t be far from wrong if he or she is to conclude that our minds as well as our media are corrupt. Political influence on the media, either by affiliation or means of venality has greatly corrupted the media and the society at large. With corrupted ideologies about other political parties, the â€žcorruptedâ€Ÿ media also on the other side of the fence fuels this idiosyncrasy by attacking some politicians and their parties.
To conclude, William A. Orton once said that, “if you keep your mind sufficiently open, people will throw a lot of rubbish into it.” Going by this statement, we are mostly influenced by the media because we lack background information to most of the issues they talk or write about. Our ability to ascertain for ourselves what is really right and logic without any sentimental attachments or malice is often questioned by these media networks. Due to the high standard of illiteracy rate in Ghana, we often do not make logical and discerning arguments about issues raised in the media. We always have a choice as to what to believe or not from these media networks. Directly or indirectly, politicians influence the media and the media as a communication tool also influence the opinions and ideologies of people in the society, thus politicians influence the society.
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